Utah Food Bank launches summer food program to feed local kids

Jun 1, 2023, 7:20 AM | Updated: Oct 26, 2023, 12:55 pm

Jude Monson shares a juice box with Remi Monson as they eat bagged lunches from the Utah Food Bank ...

PLEASANT GROVE — The Utah Food Bank on Wednesday has launched another year of their Summer Food Service Program to help feed children during the summer months, when they lose access to meals at school.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture sponsors the program in 31 states, and has had a longtime partnership with the Utah Food Bank helping to feed the state’s children ages 18 and younger.

One Summer Food Service Program stand can be found at Pleasant Grove Downtown Park from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. On Wednesday, volunteers distributed 140 meals to local kids.

“I think a lot of people just don’t realize the resources that Utah has available,” said Isabella Reynolds as she handed out meals Wednesday. She said she sees a lot of “stigma” surrounding food insecurity and hopes more people will turn to the summer program to help feed their children.

Whitney Pennington, of Pleasant Grove, brought her sons Myler and Mason to get free meals at the park on Wednesday. She and her children came to the park just once last summer but plan on getting meals from the program more regularly this year.

“It’s helpful to the kids who really need it, and it’s easy to access,” Pennington said. “I think it’s wonderful.”

There are 49 parks, libraries, schools and other community centers in Utah participating in Summer Food Service Program this summer.

Ginette Bott, president and CEO of Utah Food Bank, said children who depend on getting their breakfast and lunch at school no longer have that resource to rely on during the summer months. She said the food bank tries to pick locations near neighborhoods and parks, where kids can easily walk to get food.

“So many of the kids who are home during the day really don’t have adequate food, and their family doesn’t have extra money in the budget to provide these extra meals,” Bott said. “So it’s crucial that we get as many meals out to kids as possible.”

This is a special concern this summer, Bott added. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamp benefits that increased during the COVID-19 pandemic returned to pre-pandemic levels in February, leaving more families scrambling to make ends meet.

The program runs Monday through Friday through Aug. 11, with the exception of Juneteenth (June 19), Independence Day and Pioneer Day holidays.

During the school year, Reynolds delivers food to students and their families at local elementary schools through the Utah Food Bank’s Mobile School Pantry. Reynolds said the Summer Food Service Program helps carry over the “momentum” created by the Mobile School Pantry.

Meals must be eaten on-site to ensure freshness, Reynolds said. The Summer Food Service Program meal plan cycles through a variety of options that often includes different kinds of sandwiches, fruit cups and a drink to help meet each food group requirement.

Bott said she hopes to serve 146,000 meals to Utah kids this summer.

“I just want people to know that there are options, especially for your kids, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Reynolds said. “Feel free to come.”

For more information about the Summer Food Service Program, text “FOOD” to 304-304. You can also check out the Utah Food Bank website for more locations and services.

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Utah Food Bank launches summer food program to feed local kids